Welcome back, everybody. In case you missed yesterday's column, I'm Drew Cosner, filling in for Thor while he takes a short vacation. Don't fret, he'll be back next week. Until then, I look forward to reading your letters, and I hope you enjoy having me for your host.
In Business to... Make Money?!
The localization time on Parasite Eve, was only a month shorter than the one given for FF8, even though that game was much shorter, had WAAAAY less text and had almost zero "cultural localization" instances (well none actually). Square cares more about release dates than good translations. A September release is much more lucrative than a June/July one. Why the summer isn't a better games time is still a mystery to me. It's a time where most game players have some time off. Most companies want to wait for Christmas I guess.

Daniel Kaszor
Well, I think this is another one of those questions that just brings us back to a little gem of truth mentioned so many times before: Square is a company and is in the game industry to make money. Now, that isn't necesserily a bad thing at all. Far from it, in fact. Square knows darn well that the gaming public isn't going to accept half-assed excuses for interactive entertainment anymore. And since they want to make money, they strive to make quality games. Like any developer they slip up now and then, but I think most of us can agree that Square is still bringing us some very fine games. And, as you stated, even if Square could wrap up the english version of Final Fantasy VIII sooner than September, the Holiday season is considered the peak selling time for any sort of company.
The Truth About Text and Translations
Howdies. Just thought I'd donate a couple cents to Mentat's question aboutwhy game translation takes so long. His theory--that if one person was ableto translate the entire game in such a short time, then why couldn't Squaredo the same--is forgetting one major point that plagues game translatorseverywhere. It's one thing to translate everything the characters say andwrite it down or type it out, but it's a completely different scenario whenit comes to cramming all that translated text back in the actual game.

The biggest problem that translators face is making the text fit, thoughthis most likely isn't as big a problem as it was in the SNES days, whereyou were stuck with a fixed amount of space to work with--unless thetranslators expanded the ROM. Assuming all of the following contain onlykana and no kanji, you end up having itty-bitty Japanese words like "mahoukenshi" for "Magic Swordsman", using only six bytes in Japanese,but a whopping fifteen in English. This means things need to beabbreviated, cut, mangled, and destroyed in order for everything to work.Even some Japanese SFC RPGs use "macros" so they can use one or two bytes toinvoke commonly used phrases--but even with all these macros, the extraspace the English words need eventually adds up to extreme proportions.Again, this probably isn't a problem with CD-based systems like the PSXwhere you're only limited by the amount of free space on the CD, but sinceI'm not sure of how PSX games store their text--it could even be differentper game--I won't try to speak for them.

After the translators and programmers have finished cramming as much text asthey could back into the game, then it most likely goes to some kind ofquality control where the entire game is played through several times tomake sure there are no clumsy mistakes and everything makes sense. (Seemslike Square has been skipping this part lately, eh?) If any mistakes arediscovered, it would have to go back to the translators and/or theprogrammers again to fix. And of course, all the reasons you broughtup--localization, marketing, and such--are part of the process as well.

I'm sure we all wished there were a magic translation program that was goodenough that it would just read all the text, translate it, and put it backin, but if you've ever used one of those, you know that its artificialword-for-word results are still no match for human intuition. (Although Iwonder if some of Square's latest offerings were done with this method...)Remember, it could be worse.

Well, well, well... I do believe this astute reader has brought to light an important aspect that somehow slipped my little ol' mind. Whether or not the size and space aspect is still a concern with CD's I can't really say, but yes, it is a lot easier to sit down and type up a translation than it is to actually program it in to the game itself. I apologize for cutting your letter a little short, Flobbster, but you make a good point.
Videogames? I Disagree.
Hey, Drew. In Sunday's column, an RPGamer wondered if we'll keep playing our RPG's into adulthood, noting that his parents "grew out" of video games at the end of high school. Well, I'll bet that those people in the 1980's who felt video games were too immature to concern themselves with as adults would be kicking themselves if they saw what we have now. Final Fantasy VII explores complex, adult themes, and delivers a storyline that rivals any fantasy best-seller (so a few RPGamers don't like it. It doesn't mean its "bad"), and Metal Gear Solid is in essence an interactive Tom Clancy novel (with great cinemas, to boot). Adults are perfectly content reading their works of literature, and have gotten the wrong impression of games because the ones that are advertised on TV are mindless shooters like Goldeneye or simplistic adventures like Zelda (oh man...I hope you don't post my E-mail address). If they saw that everything they love about books and movies exists in video game form, and they can overcome their bias created by a media that sees video games as "worthless," the market would expand exponentially into a new demographic. I will continue to play RPGs in adulthood as long as they are story-driven, because they will not be viewed as little button-mashing marathons. RPGs are taking video games into a new realm, and they finally may reach into mainstream culture.

You know, I can seriously say that you readers are a very insightful bunch. I agree 100% with you. Most adults I know, when seeing me playing a game such as FFVII or Xenogears ask, "What's the object? Save the Princess?" A lot of adults are still under the false impression that games are just that: games. Simplistic little games with a single, unchanging goal that serves only as an excuse to run around eating dots while being chased by those oh-so-scary ghosts. To be honest, I don't even like the term "videogames", because they are so much more than games at this point. For Videogames (Blah) to truly become mainstream and an accepted form of art and recreation, I think people need to realize this.
Takin' You To School

I have came to the conclusion most people that claim to be hardcore or old-school gamers are not. They like to shout and flaunt their supposed staus, by either saying they play 20 hours a day, or they stick only to the classics, ect. To me that does not make them hardcore or old-school, it makes them the opposite. For example, you don't call yourself a hardcore football fan because you watch every game, every week, and live/eat/breathe football. You simply realize that football is an important part of your life and it makes you love football better, even if you only watch one game a week. "Old-school gamer" to me just mean you were enjoying games before anybody else knew about them, and you like comparing the ways the old and new games are made. Seriously I believe that most of these people that claim to be harcore/old-school just want attension or respect that they don't get from family and friends. I don't think hardcore/old-school gamers is a title, I think it is a state of mind. That's my play on things.

It would appear that I've inadvertantly started a bit of a debate with my closing comments yesterday. Redknight, in some aspects I agree with you. Being an "old-school" gamer isn't about the quantity of games you play and the amount of time you spend playing them, it's about why you play them. And personally, I feel that the people who put down and refuse to acknowledge quality newer games really aren't gamers, and thus calling themselves "old school gamers" is really a contradiction in terms. As for your comments about respect, well, that's a bit harsh. I think the truth of the matter is the fact that many old-time gamers are somewhat disheartened watching their favorite hobby suddenly being played by every punk kid who knows how to pull Mommy's strings to get a few bucks for the latest Mortal Kombat. Well, let's face it, most gamers were one of those punk kids at one time or another, and greater popularity in games only means more games, and more games means more higher quality games. It's a friendly circle.
Searching for Answers
This doesnt fit with any of the other categories, but I was trying to find a web page, site, or bibliography of the two composers of Final Fantasy Tactics, since I'm doing a project on them. Their names are Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, and I was wondering if you could help me out.
Sorry man, I can't help you. Anybody out there care to help him out?
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Several people want to know how far I am in Xenogears, and assure me that if I keep playing the plot will soon entwine me.I'm about to ascend Babel Tower to get to Shevat. Oh, and don't worry, it may take a little while, but that game's ass is mine.
Brian wants to know what my favorite moment has been in Xeno thus far.I'd have to say the moment I finally beat that sumbiach, Id. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, clown boy!
Jackie wonders what it is that makes Team Rocket more evil than Ash and company, considering Ash goes around making slaves of cute little pokemon while all Team Rocket does is try to snag Pikachu.Easy. They recite that #*&@*&%ing poem a million times per episode. If that's not heinous, I don't know what is.
Citan points out that if people grew out of games when they reach adulthood, there wouldn't be very many game designers.Can't argue with that.
Lastly, CB agrees that Xenogears can be difficult to get into, and the 3D camera angles can cause confusion.Thank God, I thought I was the only person with a complete and total lack of any discernible sense of direction that managed to get lost in the first house for almost half an hour o_O;
Drew Stuff

Well, so far things are going pretty well. I didn't even get a single letter that would qualify for "Unfit for Print", and nobody flamed me for saying that Xenogears hasn't fully drawn me in yet. You guys rule :) Anyway, not too many earth-shattering questions today, but several well thought-out letters with which I was very pleased.

You may have noticed my changes to the "Ask" page. Okay, unless you're totally blind and have some sort of futuristic braille monitor you're reading with, you noticed. I'm not sure what Thor will think of it, but I figured it was time somebody cleaned up this one-horse column. Tell me what you think. Love it? Hate it? Think it looks gaudier than your average 50's decor? let me know, suggestions are my friends.

- Drew Cosner

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